Family Roles Defined: Hero and Scapegoat

My self-discovery test, the Changemaker Test, is found on another of my blogs. Learning Your Labels. In my test, I have added what I found about the family roles. We actually choose 2 roles–what I call a “doing role” (how the world sees us) and a “being role” (the role we use when we get into emotional trouble). My roles are family hero/rescuer and scapegoat.

Family roles in dysfunctional families (which is all of us are part of at one time or another) were introduced by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse in her book, The Family Trap.

Family Hero and Scapegoat are reprinted today.

  1.  In our family of origin, we each chose roles as our way to belong in the family. Possibly we were indirectly “assigned” these roles. However, we settled on two of the roles. One is our “doing” role (how we appear to others) and the other is our “being” role (the role we choose to solve our emotional problems through). The roles are family hero, scapegoat, lost child, and mascot.

Positive characteristics of the family hero:

Responsible—dependable—hard worker—achiever—successful—focused—generous in praising others—leader—survivor—loyal—powerful–organized

Negative characteristics of family hero:

Inflexible—fears intimacy—driven—unable to play—has unreasonable expectations—fears failure—experiences guilt easily—has trouble getting personal needs met

Inner feelings of family hero:

Works hard for approval—super responsible—successful—appears to be all-together—believes themselves to be special

Major hidden feelings of family hero:

Inadequacy because nothing is ever good enough

Gift to the family:

Pride from the achievements of the family hero

To outgrow need for family hero role, he/she needs to learn:

They are responsible for getting their own needs met and are not responsible for everyone around them. They need to learn to play and not take themselves and others so seriously. They need to give up compulsion to be perfect and to give up the need to be boss in order to win approval from authority figures.

Techniques others may use to help the family hero to give up using this role exclusively:

Allow the family hero to know it is all right to make mistakes.

Help the family hero to feel validated by his-her own person rather than by achievements.

Give the family hero attention and approval at times other than when he/she is achieving.

2.   Scapegoat–

Positive characteristics of the scapegoat:

Has many friends—good group leader and/or counselor—courage to reveal reality—sensitive to others’ feelings—handles stress well—commands attention

Negative characteristics of scapegoat:

Hostile—defiant—angry—rule-breaker—may be in trouble—may have legal trouble—irresponsible—manipulative

Inner feelings of scapegoat:


Major hidden feelings of scapegoat:

Rejection so rejects others first

Gift to the family:

Rebels to take focus away from other family members—provides distraction

To outgrow need scapegoat role, he/she needs to learn:

To learn conflict resolution rather than dealing with the difficulty by rebelling

To be assertive and tell others of his/her true feelings

To learn to identify the hurt under the anger and to recognize when they use anger to cover hurt

Techniques others may use to help scapegoat to give up using this role exclusively:

Don’t get caught up in the scapegoat’s cover of “anger” and allow the scapegoat to avoid feeling their hurt

To learn to negotiate rather then rebel

To help scapegoat to understand he/she has control over feelings of anger.

Photo credit.

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